It had been a difficult decision, some three weeks earlier, to duck out of walking stage one with thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. In retrospect however, given the glorious weather I had enjoyed for the rest of the week, I have no doubt that I did the right thing. I was keen though to complete the stage as soon as possible, while I still had the fitness accrued during the 8 days walking of the other stages.
So it was that a fortnight after ‘finishing’ Glyndwr’s Way in Welshpool, I set out to complete stage 1.
The 09:00 from Shrewsbury on the Heart of Wales line was populated with about a dozen people. Most seemed to be outdoor types equipped with either a rucksack or a mountain bike. We left on time and trundled down the line in our old but perfectly serviceable one carriage train. At Craven Arms however there was an issue with the points and we were sat there for about twenty five minutes and it looked like we might all have to get off but it was sorted eventually and we arrived in Knighton about half an hour behind schedule.
It was forecast to get up to about 24 degrees in the afternoon and the slightly later start meant that I’d be walking in the hottest part of the day for slightly longer. I’d also arranged with Pam to be picked up in Felindre at 18:00, with amendments to the ETA via text message once I knew how I was getting on.
It’s quite a nice gentle climb out of Knighton, through deciduous woodland, green lane and then half a mile of road. You then have the first, and most arduous, climb of the day, of about 200 metres, past Ebrandy farm. It pretty much levels off then and it’s mostly fields, with the noisy, neighbouring distraction of the Phil Price rally school, until Llangunllo.
Llangunllo lost its pub, The Greyhound, for a few years apparently but it was now open again and doing rather well. The only issue was that it didn’t open until 14:00 and I had arrived at 13:00. My guidebook had said that if it was after midday you could ring the bell and if they were around they would serve you. The notice on the door said the same thing. Therefore, more in hope than expectation, I rang the bell. Nothing for about a minute. Then, suddenly, a sash window on the upper floor was opened and a head appeared, a bit like Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol. For a moment I thought I was going to be asked if I knew the butchers in the town with the massive turkey outside!
Instead, and perhaps more predictably, the lady asked politely if she could help me. I asked if there was any chance of a pint. She explained that she was just eating her dinner but would serve me if I was happy to sit outside – which I confirmed I was happy to do. She couldn’t have been nicer and the pint of Otter Ale was superb. I also took the opportunity to replenish one of my water bottles and then tucked in to my packed lunch and my lovely beer on the benches outside. Great Stuff!
As usual, it’s heavy going after lunch, especially when it has been of the liquid variety. After about half a mile of road and then the same through fields, steadily climbing all the way, you reach a wide grassy path that is easy walking for the next twenty minutes with excellent views to enjoy.
Another short, sharp climb leads to Beacon Hill and the promise of moorland walking for the next five miles around Pool Hill, Stanky Hill and Black Hill – great names. There were lots of Stonechat, a few Wheatear, Meadow Pipits and a noisy, if visually elusive, Curlew.
I had made good progress and had earlier adjusted my ETA to 17:I0 so I had to keep the pace up but it was superb walking – perhaps the nicest stage of the lot. I arrived at Felindre bang on time and fastidiously made my way to the farm where I had been dropped off three weeks ago to complete the trail!
The sense of achievement, that was notable by its absence in Welshpool a fortnight earlier, was tangible. It felt really rewarding to have completed my first long distance walk. Plans are now afoot to at least progress from Kirkby Stephen to Richmond on the Coast to Coast this summer. I’m also looking at eating into Offa’s Dyke Path in two to three day chunks, starting with Prestatyn to Chirk over a long weekend in the next few months – so watch this space!